Fuel poverty will be here for decades to come, campaigners warn
The problem of fuel poverty will not be solved in the lifetime of a child born today on current rates of progress, campaigners have warned.
National Energy Action (NEA) is calling on the Government to invest more in energy efficiency and urgently improve conditions in privately rented properties to help tackle the illness and anxiety caused by the struggle to heat homes.
NEA's campaign, which is being backed by I, Daniel Blake lead actor Dave Johns, is highlighting that four million households in the UK still face the problems of living in a cold, damp home, affecting their life chances.
The problem is particularly acute in privately rented homes such as bedsits and hostels, the charity warns.
On current rates of progress, the Government's target to end fuel poverty by 2030 will not have been met even when a child born today reaches their 80th birthday, NEA says.
The charity paints a worrying picture of the future for a baby born into cold housing, warning that she would be twice as likely to suffer from breathing problems such as asthma and bronchitis and three times as likely to to suffer respiratory illness.
Growing up in a cold, damp house can affect educational attainment, while adolescents are at risk of multiple mental health problems, the NEA warns.
By the age of 40, she is more likely to suffer anxiety caused by worry over falling into debt or failing to pay bills, while health problems could be aggravated. For pensioners, a cold home can make arthritis worse and raise the risk of falls.
Two-thirds of people in the housing sector questioned for a new report by the NEA said residents in houses in multiple occupation, such as bedsits, could not afford to heat their rooms or shared spaces adequately.
A similar number said the worst rental properties have such poor heating and insulation that it was impossible to keep them warm and free from damp.
Johns said: "It is a complete scandal that people die because they can't afford to heat their homes. I, Daniel Blake shows the tragic circumstances and daily dilemma of 'heating or eating' faced by many thousands of people in Britain today.
"I'm backing NEA's Warm Homes campaign to highlight what help is available to cope with rising energy bills as winter takes hold and demand more support from Government."
Jenny Saunders, chief executive of NEA said: "We need to see much more ambition from national and local government if we are to end the unnecessary cost and suffering caused by fuel poverty.
" As well as continuing to tackle exclusion in the energy market, the answer lies in increasing investment in domestic energy efficiency.
"We need to follow the example of other developed countries and be driving massive permanent reduction in total energy demand across the UK."
And the Government must work to to improve conditions in the private rented sector, where, she said, thousands of landlords were making huge amounts of money from their tenants' housing benefit but continuing to rent out potentially life-damaging homes.
A Department for Energy Infrastructure, Markets and Resilience spokesman said: "The Government is committed to tackling fuel poverty. The Warm Home Discount will ensure that over two million households will receive £140 off their energy bills this winter.
"The best long-term solution is to improve the energy efficiency of households. We are reforming the requirement on energy companies to install efficiency measures in homes across Great Britain, which will insulate one million homes by 2020, tackling the root cause of fuel poverty."